Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Face, Sad Face, Climate Change

How to get the average idiot to decrease their carbon footprint? That's the question that University of Chicago researchers hashed out. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler even went so far as to make a book, Nudge, to give us all guidelines to follow.

Folks in Chicago are aware of the dangers of global warming. They're living through one of the worst winters in years, which certainly proves to them how hot the planet is getting. It doesn't help the carbon footprint folks, especially when this year's temperatures are included in the average and the world's temperature comes out unchanged.

The duo of Sunstein and Thaler have discovered that people care very much about what their neighbors think, in a bid to keep up. Therefore, if you believed that you used more electricity than your mate on the other side of the fence, you'd be so ashamed that you'd cut your own use.

And what might reinforce your desire to be like others? A smiley face on your electric bill. Charming, isn't it? When you use less power, you get a smiley face. Too much juice, and that smile turns upside down into a sad frown. Wouldn't want that, would you? The postman would see it through the thin envelope and all the neighborhood would be talking about you, the carbon spewer.

You can presume that Sunstein and Thaler have never paid a utility bill, or they would have noticed that the people of the Chicago area were recently punished for cutting back on their natural gas usage. While folks in the Windy City suffered through a blisteringly cold, snowy winter, they shivered in their homes with the thermostats scaled back.

In return, the suits at People's Gas decreed that all this conservation was costing them money. How could they face the shareholders and tell them that people were using less gas so there would be a minuscule dividend issued? It's the global warming, they cried, and hotter weather and people not using much natural gas to heat homes.

Reduce your carbon footprint, think that you're saving a bit of money on your heating bill, and someone will find a way to make you pay more for using less. So you're out of pocket to a greater degree, due to a claim of global warming, and the winter's dragging on.

If it isn't one scam, it's another.

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